Homemade English Muffins

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My baking cravings have continued as we dig deep into the end of summer, so last week I decided to try a new recipe: English Muffins. And this recipe did not disappoint. The muffins didn’t come out exactly like the store bought kind (less holes, not uniform in shape or size), but the flavor and texture were wonderful! We enjoyed them plain with a little butter and as part of an egg/breakfast sandwich. Both ways they definitely had the wow factor. The last muffin was highly sought after to say the least! An added bonus, they are also super easy to make. It was a perfect mid-week breakfast treat.

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Whole-Wheat English Muffins

What You Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)

4 tablespoons/60 grams unsalted butter

1/2 cup plain greek yogurtP1070572

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cornmeal, as needed

 

To Make:P1070573

In a small bowl combine the yeast and 1/3 cup warm water. Allow yeast to dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and pour into a large bowl. Whisk in yogurt, milk, honey, salt and the yeast/water mixture. Add flours and baking soda and mix until well combined.

Cover the bowl and let it rest for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (until dough has doubled).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly dust a small baking sheet with cornmeal (set aside).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet (medium high heat) and melt 1 tablespoon butter. Using a 1/2 measuring cup, drop batter into skillet to form muffins. It is okay if they aren’t round, but try to make sure they form a nice mound. Repeat until you have 3 muffins for the first batch. Reduce heat to low. Cover skillet with lid orP1070576 baking sheet and cook 3 to 5 minutes,  bottoms should be golden brown. Flip muffins and cook (covered) an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until the other sides are golden brown. Place muffins on prepared baking sheet.

Repeat for the second batch (3 more muffins) using remaining batter and another tablespoon of butter.

Bake muffins for 6 to 9 minutes and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The New York Times.

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Container Gradening: food at my finger tips

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This year, for the first summer in I don’t know how long, we didn’t move. We stayed put. And this seemed like something worth celebrating, so I planted.

I have been dreaming about a garden for years and the stars finally lined up this summer. We would be in one place long enough to plant and enjoy the harvest. I have such wonderful memories of gardening (or at least eating out of the garden) as a kid. Summer snack time was grabbing snow peas off the vine as we ran past in the back yard.  And I have longed for this feeling of stepping out your door and finding fresh food ready to eat.

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This spring, after we cemented our plans to stay put, I started planning for a garden, with only one major obstacle left- space. We are renters, which means, we don’t really have a yard of our own, but we have a porch that gets full sun and this is where I set my sights. Container gardening. I seem to have picked a popular moment to catch hold of this trend as magazines and websites are touting this small scale type of gardening so finding information, suggestions, and advice was easy. It is all pretty basic. Gather some large containers or pots that drain well, fill them with high quality soil, and plant crops that do well in a confined space. Most types of veggies seemed to fit into this category, and after some debate, we decided on snow peas, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

To fill our containers, we attended the May Market and National Public Gardens Day hosted at Phipps Conservatory in the city P1070560(Pittsburgh, PA). It was fun to stroll through the vendors, chat with farmers, and select the plants we would be growing this summer. We picked out three types of tomatoes (a small red for sauces, zebra striped green, and purple), a sweet red pepper plant, two types of basil (curly purple and baby leaf), and oregano. We also planted cilantro and snow peas from seeds.

The porch is right off our living room and I have found that I love watching the progress of the plants as much as I like the harvest we have gotten so far. I gravitate towards the french doors that open out onto the porch several times a day, and I have noticed that my husband does the same thing. We have become garden watchers.

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I loved the excitement of spring and early summer as the fern like stems of the cilantro broke through the soil and as our tomatoes plants began reaching up and over the railing on the porch towards the sun in wild, lanky branches. The basil soon filled and overflowed from the pot and oregano stretched out leafy tentacles as we reached deeper into summer. Our giant cone shaped peppers have been teasing us with deep green for a month and it felt like we such a victory when last week when they finally started shifting into a rusty and then bright red. We will eat pepper soon!P1070556

When my cousin’s daughter came to stay with us for a few days, I saw this excitement and wonder at how our food grows spread through her. She loved “harvesting” basil and oregano. Snipping off pieces with scissors and them pulling the leaves off to scatter on her personalized, homemade pizza. There is so much wonder in watching things grow.

For the most part, our garden, so far, has been a success (knock on wood), if for no other reason than the joy we get from watching it grow and the handful of things we have eaten already- basil, cilantro, oregano, tomatoes. But we did have some failures: the snow peas burned up and one of our tomato plants looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, a shriveled stick with one lonely tomato. Lessons learned for next time.

But for now, I am truly enjoying the green out my window and the fresh tomato I have sitting on my counter for tonight!

Happy Summer 🙂

 


Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce

IMG_0360 I have been on a baking roll the last two weeks (which seems crazy since it is so hot out), but I love the smell and the rising dough sitting in my kitchen, and the fun of trying out new recipes. So this week, I went back to something both my husband and I love- soft pretzels! But I wanted to try something new. After a little searching, I came across a Rosemary and Sea Salt Pretzel Recipe over at two peas & their pod. I was pretty much sold when they also included a cheese dipping sauce.

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Yesterday, I got to work recreating this savory treat. The dough came together perfectly and I loved the fresh rosemary smell drifting out of the kitchen. The recipe is simple and straightforward (especially if you have  a stand mixer) and the dough doubled beautifully and baked off in a crisp, golden brown. The pretzels were light and chewy and looked like puffs of yummy goodness. Right before we scarfed these down as part of our dinner, I made the cheese sauce. It was good, but I would make some alterations (as indicated in my version of the recipe below). Long story short, we wanted the sauce to be much cheesier! Overall, this is a great treat and it will be reappearing in our house again soon.

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Happy Baking!

Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce

What You Need:

For the pretzels:IMG_0337

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Canola oil, to grease bowl
3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt

For the cheese sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

To Make:IMG_0341

For the pretzels, combine the water, sugar, yeast, and melted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Then, add the salt, flour, and chopped rosemary. Mix on low until combined. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. (If the dough is too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Remove the dough, place it on a flat surface and shape into a ball with your hands. Coat a large bowl with canola oil, add the dough ball, and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Place the dough on a clean, flat surface and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope moving from the center out to the edges of the dough with the palm of your hands. Taper the ends of the dough rope. Shape the dough into pretzels by crossing the two ends, twisting once, IMG_0345and then secure each end to the bottom of the pretzel with your thumbs. Shape all pretzels and then slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. (It will boil furiously as added.) Gentle place 2 pretzels into the boiling water using a slotted spatula and boil for 30 seconds. As they boil, splash the tops with warm water using your spatula.  Remove, and place pretzels on a baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown. Remove pretzels from oven and let cool on a wire baking rack.

For the cheese sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then whisk in flour. Add milk and whisk until the mixture thickens, 2-5 minutes. Add shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve cheese sauce with pretzels and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from two peas & their pod.


Homemade Noodles

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Cold weather always makes me gravitate towards the kitchen. Something about the heat of the oven and the deep smells drifting through the house pairs perfectly with a heavy gray sky and dipping temperatures. So lately, I have been enjoying the camaraderie of being in the kitchen with my husband.

We made one of my favorite things  this month: homemade noodles. We started making noodles a few years ago when we were living in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and then took a break during all our travels, so pulling out our pasta maker felt a little like coming home.

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Noodles are actually relatively simple in terms of ingredients, and with a Kitchen Aid mixer, the kneading process is hands free. Mostly, noodle making takes patience, and it definitely helps to have two people on the job. It makes things more fun and helps when feeding the dough through the pasta maker to thin and cut it. And of course, the product is amazing. Light and eggy. So good you hardly need sauce.

This time we made fettuccine. We made a double batch, so we could eat some fresh and dry the rest for later. It was our first time drying pasta and it went relatively smoothly although it did break in half on the drying rack, but that actually worked out well for storage. Overall, a wonderful Sunday afternoon activity that resulted in a spectacular dinner (and future dinners!).

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We have an Imperia manual pasta machine, but the recipe will work with the kitchen aid attachment or other pasta machines as well.

The dough is simple:

2 cups all purpose flour

3 eggs, lightly beaten

water as needed (added 1Tbs at a time))

Yields about 1 lb.

To Make:

You can mix the dough manually (which we have done), but it is much easier with a stand mixer. Simply use the paddle attachment for normal batches or the dough hook for large batches. Add the flour and eggs to the bowl and mix on low until the dough comes together adding water as needed until a ball is formed.

Once the ball has formed, knead the dough by hand on a well floured surface until it is smooth (about 2 minutes). Then wrap in plastic and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Then follow the directions for your pasta maker to roll out and cut the dough.

Finally, eat fresh with a quick boil, refrigerate for up to three days, dry, or freeze and enjoy!


Croissants with Julia Child

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I have a bit of a foodie crush on Julia Child. Maybe it is the dipping cadence of her voice, or her role as woman in the industry, or her height, or the fact that she loved bread and worked with Raymond Calvel, one of bakings greats. Whatever the reason, I get really excited when I come across something that lets baking and Julia Child collide. And these croissants are it!

I will admit, making croissants had me a little nervous. All the folding and butter, I was afraid I would end up with flat, pathetic blobs. But, I didn’t. They turned out great. Light and flakey…not perfect, but we loved eating every last one. It takes time, the first day is all about letting the dough rest, the second day your rolling-pin becomes your best friend, but it was fun and challenging and rewarding. A perfect way to spend a gray winter weekend. Not exactly, healthy, but everyone deserves a Julia Child inspired treat once in a while. So, treat yourself to a fabulous breakfast for dinner kind of day!

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Croissants

Adapted from From Julia’s Kitchen by Julia Child

What You Need:

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeastIMG_6045

3 tablespoons tepid water

2 teaspoons sugar

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup tepid milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 to 7 ounces (1 to 1 3/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter

Eggwash

To Make:

Day 1…

In a small bowl mix the yeast, water and sugar. Blend the milk and oil with the yeast mixture.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture. Mix until well combined, then turn it out onto your floured work surface.

Let it rest for a few minutes, then knead until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out during kneading. You’ll probably need a dusting of flour during kneading, but try not to add too much.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set aside until the dough has tripled in size, about 3 hours.

After the first rise, turn the dough out on a floured surface and fold it over a few times. Then put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

After the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerator overnight.

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Day 2…

Take the butter out of the refrigerator and beat it with a rolling-pin to soften it so you can spread it. (This is a bit messy.) Do this quickly so it doesn’t get warm. Scrape the butter up with a dough scraper, fold it over, and whack it again if needed to get it soft. You can use the palm of your hand.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll it into an 14×8 inch rectangle and spread the butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the uncovered third over the buttered center, then fold the other side, like folding a brochure.

Lightly flour the dough, and roll it into a 10×16 inch rectangle. Fold it into thirds like you did before (no additional butter). Flour the dough, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 45 minutes.

Take it out of the refrigerator and roll it into a 10×16 rectangle. Fold in thirds as before. Then roll and fold one last time.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Prepare two baking sheets.

Roll the dough to a rectangle about 20×5 inches. Cut it in half and return half to the refrigerator. Roll the half you’re working with to about 15×5 inches. Cut it into thirds so you have three 5×5 pieces.

Cut your 5×5 piece diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the base with your fingers and roll the triangle toward the tip. Bend the two ends to form the curve of the crescent.

Place the roll on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until all the dough has been cut and rolled (makes 12).

Cover the baking sheets and let the croissants rise until they have tripled in size, about 2 hours. They should feel puffy and light.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Brush the croissants with the egg wash and then bake at 475 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes and serve.

Enjoy!

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Adapted from Cookistry.


Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup

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It is a perfect week for soup: gray, rainy, and the kind of wet-cold that makes you want to stay in bed all day long. So last night we tried a new soup that has been sitting on my pinterest board for months, and it is a total winner! I must admit, I love pretty much any soup that involves cheese, and Lucas and I have been on a cauliflower kick, so this seemed like a good match. What I loved about this soup, beyond the way it made our house smell, was the depth of flavor even with so few ingredients. I think roasting the cauliflower helps make the flavors so robust and, of course, I added a little extra cheese, which never hurts. Overall, it was a perfect, warm, cozy soup for a cold, rainy night. How I wish it had been snow instead! Still keeping my fingers crossed for a white Christmas.

Happy Apocalypse Day! And enjoy the soup 🙂

Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup

What You Need:Soup! 002

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
3-4 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
3 cups vegetable stock
2 cups aged white cheddar, shredded
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
To Make:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the cauliflower florets in oil with salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Then heat oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute about a minute. Stir often. Add the stock, make sure to scrap all the spices off the bottom of the pan so they can be incorporated into the stock. Add the cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Puree the soup until it reaches your desired consistency with an immersion blender. Mix in the cheese, let it melt without bringing it to boil again. Mix in the milk, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Serve with bread or crackers, and enjoy!

Adapted from Closet Cooking


Fish On! Homer, Alaska

I’m a little behind on blogging lately, between friend’s visiting and figure out what comes next for us (only 2.5 weeks left in Alaska! Crazy) things have been busy. So I am backing up: Two weekends ago, we took a 12 hour road trip to Homer, Alaska, swinging through Anchorage to pick-up friends visiting from Wisconsin on the way.

Homer is a cute little coastal town, famous for its halibut fishing. In real life, I’m not really much of a fisherwomen. In fact, I can count the number of times I have been fishing on two hands and most of them involve me doing more chatting than fishing. But, fishing is one of those things that is very Alaskan so I was more than game to give it a try. In light of this, we booked a charter fishing trip out of Ninilchik, just north of Homer, and signed on to start fishing at 4:30AM with Captain Steve.

We knew it would be a good day when on the way to Ninilchik from Homer we saw seven moose. Seven! Apparently 4 in the morning is prime moose viewing. Upon arrival we suited up in rain gear, team banana-yellow, Xtra Tuf boots (which I have been wanting to wear since seeing them in the southeast, where in one town they are referred to as the Juneau sneaker), and piled into a van to drive to the harbor. Our boating crew included our group of four, another couple, Captain Steve, and deckhand Chuck.

The boat launch was a marvel unto itself. In Anchor Point, where we launched from, there is not actually a harbor. Instead, a tracker (yes, tracker) pulls your boat out into the ocean and at the end of the day pulls you back out. The tracker backs straight into the water as if it were designed to be a land/sea machine. Nuts. And according to Captain Steve, they have only lost on tracker to the water since they started using this system in the 1990s.

As we raced out into open water, we had great views of the snow capped volcanoes in the distance, and the mountains that run along side of them. I am really going to miss seeing mountains in every direction.

But back to fishing. Our first stop was in shallow water, about 45 feet, we dropped our bait heavy lines with two pound weights to the bottom and “bobbed” them every two to three minutes. This helps release the scent and bring the fish to our boat. It worked pretty quickly. The wife of the couple with us got the first bite, a small one (which means 10-20 pounds), and a few minutes later I had one on my line. It was like reeling in a dumb bell. Mine wasn’t a keeper either, but I was pretty happy to have at least caught something, and within fifteen minutes of the start of our trip. After that, the boat was alive with hits. The fish couldn’t seem to gobble up our bait fast enough. We got two keepers (25-30 pounds) and Captain Steve moved us out to deeper water searching for the “really big ones.”

Deep water is work. We used 4 pound weights and dropped our lines around 200 feet to the bottom. But, we got tons of action. Lucas caught the biggest fish from our group of four, about 45 pounds, and afterwards was ready for a break! The wife of the couple on our trip kept saying, “Here we go again…” each time she had a fish on as she leaned against the side, heavy breathing. It become our tag line for the weekend. But truthfully, the next day we were all insanely sore.

My favorite part of fishing was the madness of so many fish on lines at once (4 out of 6 people at one point), deciding what to keep or toss back, and watching Lucas and our friends as they wrestled to bring fish in. At one point, my friend Vanessa and I reeled in a fish together to give our arms a break. Girl power.

We lucked out with weather (sunny skies and calm seas for the most part) and ended up with two keepers each (our limit) and close to 100 pounds of halibut. A great day. And dinner, halibut three ways, was a feast!

In Homer, like much of Alaska, it rained off and on during the weekend, but it didn’t stop us from meeting up with friends of the family the next day for another boat trip. Alaska seems to make the world smaller in such wonderful ways and has provided us the chance to meet friends of friends and friends of family who have, for one reason or another, ended up in Alaska. It is nice to know there are so many generous, warm people in Alaska who are excited to share the place they love with you. Our boat tour guides, Tom and Sandy, were just such people!

They took us out to “bird island,” a chunk of craggy rock jetting out of the water covered with a variety of nesting sea birds. Never have I seen so many birds in one place! The murres, black and white birds that dive to feed on fish, bobbed in tight packed clusters all around us. It was like a river of birds pouring out into the ocean.

But the highlight of my day was seeing a baby sea otter surfing across the water on it’s mom’s belly. Too cute for words.

We also stopped out at Halibut Cove, a tiny island community of about 40, whose homes and stores sit on stilts out over the water, linked by a series of boardwalks. I almost felt like we should talk in a whisper or that we had past through a veil of mist into a secret world like Brigadoon. The water was deep green with dark rock rising straight from the sea floor, topped with puffs of grass, and polka doted with isolated homes. We visited the gallery of Diana Tillion, a local artist who painted with octopus ink. And peered down into the shallow water looking for sea life. A wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

The other part of Homer we really liked was the spit, a narrow piece of land that juts out into the water like a floating tooth pick. It is a boat harbor, a shopping and dining area, a place to fish, camp, and walk the beaches. In the large boat harbor we saw the Rambling Rose, a crab fishing boat from the Alaskan based show, Deadliest Catch.

We also, of course, spent a lot of time playing Euchre and eating halibut every night for dinner. Great weekend in Homer, AK!


Homer on Dwellable